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GaryVee Uncorked: Wine Library TV's Gary Vaynerchuk

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Building an Online Brand
For those starting out, Vaynerchuk’s rise from unknown businessman to celebrity-on-the-rise might seem impossible to replicate, but he did it with no backing and with a bare minimum of equipment. The hardest part in starting out, he says, is getting attention.

"Film or TV has an inherent platform that has eyeballs, so that is a big difference," he says. "I mean, the costs are much cheaper and there’s a lot of advantages, but the disadvantage would be the built-in audience. I was able to build audience through realizing this is a marathon, not a sprint."

While he pays attention to building viewers, that’s become less necessary as his show has grown. "I’ve kind of got enough momentum now, at this point, but I think it’s about being in the trenches with consumers," Vaynerchuk says. "That’s the whole game. Speaking and talking about their subject matter in different platforms that’s available to you, meaning other blogs, other platforms that speak about your subject; becoming part of that community and then giving yourself the ability to be seen and heard."

Social networking tools were crucial for audience-building, as they let Vaynerchuk interact directly with his viewers. "I use Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, quite a bit. Full-time, five to eight hours a day," he says.

However, his position at Wine Library freed him from the monetization worries of many independents. There’s no preroll or postroll ads on his show, and there are no paid product endorsements. While he temporarily had a syndication arrangement with Revision3, it didn’t last long. During this time, the company offered an edited, shorter version of his show, while the full version was available on Vaynerchuk’s site. Revision3’s version was also posted later, and the company wasn’t able to pull in enough ad money to keep its version going.

Hitting the Big Time
Vaynerchuk’s viewers have learned a few things about his passions over the years. There’s wine, of course, and his family, and then there’s the New York Jets. When asked about his goals, he says he’d like to educate buyers and build up his store, but the only personal goal he copped to was his desire to one day own the football team.

Rather than having a clear map of where he wants the show to take him, Vaynerchuk seems willing to ride his growing fame and see what develops. As he became an internet celebrity, speaking gigs and consulting work opened up. He also became a regular, wine-toting guest on the major networks’ morning, afternoon, and late-night talk shows, appearing on SPIKE TV, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and more.

Vaynerchuk’s first book, a wine guide called Gary Vaynerchuk’s 101 Wines: Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World, was published by Rodale Books in May 2008, and he recently announced a seven-figure, 10-book deal with HarperStudio. This won’t be a series of wine guides; he’s going to pen 10 business books. After giving a talk at the Web 2.0 Expo, Vaynerchuk got four emails from publishers gauging his interest in a book deal. The offers came at the right time, as he’d been thinking about writing a business book, he says.

At some level, success brings nearly as many haters as supporters, as Vaynerchuk discovered when the deal was announced. A post on Valleywag by Owen Thomas (http://gawker.com/5195830/wine+loving-twitter-twerp-in-million+dollar-book-deal) called him a "Twitter twerp" and stated, "Vaynerchuk doesn’t even read books, let alone show any sign of being able to write them." Does Vaynerchuk have thick enough skin for this level of notoriety?

"I respect what Owen’s doing; he’s playing his role," Vaynerchuk says. "It’s what he does for a living. A lot of people wrote the story as ‘Twitter’s Gary Vaynerchuk,’ like I have a lot of Twitter followers, but I know that I’ve built a $60 million company and I know that I’ve been able to build companies my whole life and side projects that make money. I know who I am and what I do. I don’t really necessarily worry about what people say. I care about what everybody says; at the same token, I don’t worry about what everybody says. It just comes with the territory: You can’t be in the public eye without being bashed a little bit."

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